Tuesday, 18 September 2012

A student guide to the Scottish music scene...

As in 2009 and 2011, I've put together an overview of Scottish music for The Skinny's Fresher's guide book thingymajig. Yes, i missed out loads of people. Whaddaya expect, eh?

Wind turbines, cholesterol, and incredible music: three things Scotland’s got in abundance. Here’s our guide to the latter – to the solo acts, bands, producers and so forth most liable to metaphorically blow your socks off this year.

Now naturally, you don’t set about squeezing an entire country’s musical fruits into a few hundred words without a whole lot slopping over the sides. But with some modest parameters to guide the selection process, we’ll give it our best shot, goddammit.

So, on the basis that the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Belle and Sebastian and Mogwai are already firmly squared away in the public consciousness, we’ve focussed our sights solely on younger guns – those who’ve impressed with no more than EPs, an eye-catching gig, or, at most, a scintillating debut to their name. We’ll let Malcolm Middleton through on a technicality, his debut as Human Don't Be Angry having taken a sonic detour from previous solo work to revitalising effect.

Similarly, Scottish Album of the Year Award winners Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells can scrape in too, if we consider them a single recording unit and overlook the megaton of brilliance they’ve each recorded in other guises and partnerships. And Gerard Love’s Lightships can act as proxy for all the amazingness Teenage Fanclub have produced in their twenty-odd-year existence, what with his new outfit’s breezy/bittersweet melodising sounding not entirely dissimilar.


The rest of the picks fit the bill less contentiously. Recent(ish) debutants to have tickled The Skinny’s collective fancy include Happy Particles, who swirl up dreamy lullabies real nice; De Rosa man Martin John Henry (also moonlighting in Middleton’s aforementioned Human Don’t Be Angry project); and future-pop electro-maven Julian Corrie, aka Miaoux Miaoux. Then there’s taps-aff riff titans Holy Mountain, subtle-schmubtle Warp wunderkind Rustie, and idiosyncratic art syndicate Muscles of Joy; Delphian shape-shifters Die Hard, buzzing slacker-rock skater-bois PAWS, and MC + drums duo Hector Bizerk; emotive indie ensemble French Wives, prodigious electronic minimalist Konx-Om-Pax, and Chris Devotion and his punky, new wave-indebted Expectations. Oh, and quirky feet-draggers Jesus H Foxx, who finally got round to releasing their overdue (but top-notch) debut in April - which is slow, but not as slow as eagleowl (recent tweet in response to query ‘when’s the album due?’: “about three years ago”). Good things come to those that wait, etc. Case in point: Divorce, currently fulfilling their reputation for terrifying, noisy awesomeness with a formidable self-titled full-length.

Others are pre-debut album for good reason: Churches only introduced themselves in May this year, but their bold, hook-filled electropop is already proving seriously addictive (plus, their membership allows a smuggled mention of The Unwinding Hours and The Twilight Sad, on albums two and three respectively and going from strength to strength). Sacred Paws are similarly fresh out the gates, with every gig caught thus far a party-starter and then some; Palms deliver high-calibre, lo-fi sounds with a jagged undertow; while Aggi Doom’s brooding debut single Bring Me the Head has well and truly turned ours.

Then there’s the silver-lining acts that come from a beloved band’s break-up: Danananykroyd have shattered into Alarm Bells, Ex Teens and Ghost Pants, amongst others; Findo Gask members have reappeared in Bermuda (formerly Milk), Babe and the recently-reunited Mitchell Museum; while Joe Howe may have put Gay Against You to bed, but continues to bend brains as Ben Butler and Mousepad

Finally, there are those at the other end of this arbitrary set of qualifying criteria – those with a second album gestating, some in the early stages, others ready to drop. Hudson Mohawke is most likely dreaming up glitchy, dayglo shouldn’t-work-does-work sound combos this very moment; United Fruit have been debuting promising new material live of late; while recent Chemikal Underground signees Conquering Animal Sound have already finished Kammerspeil’s successor On Floating Bodies, with a release pencilled in for early 2013. Can. Not. Wait.

So much music, so little space in which to do it justice… Just enough room left to mention Neigbourhood Gout, namecheck Kid Canaveral, acknowledge Lady North, recognise Over The Wall, touch on Holy Esque, note Dam Mantle, and reference Withered Hand. But as the thesaurus reaches its limits, so do we: you’ll have to figure the rest out for yourself.

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